Mnangagwa’s title deeds pledge falls through

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HARARE – Residents of Harare are expressing skepticism over President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promise to regularize informal settlements, including the densely populated Epworth, where hundreds of title deeds were distributed ahead of the August 2023 harmonized elections.

In a bid to gain support before the polls, Mnangagwa pledged to distribute over 11,000 title deeds to Epworth residents. This promise was supported by the Cabinet-endorsed Kwangu/Ngakwami Presidential Title Deeds Programme Consortium, which was supposed to provide the financial and technical support necessary for issuing the deeds.

During a follow-up event at Epworth High School, Mnangagwa handed out 265 securitized title deeds and committed to providing more. However, a title deed, which legally defines property ownership and transfer, has reportedly been distributed to only a few individuals, primarily those with close ties to the ruling Zanu PF party.

Sources have informed NewsDay that the project appears to have been abandoned post-elections, leaving many residents, particularly those without political connections, without their promised title deeds.

“Only a few were issued, those with close ties to Zanu PF,” a source said. Land barons, including John Mabwe, coordinator and spokesperson for Kushinga Epworth Residents Trust, and another individual named Moyo, are reportedly holding the Epworth Local Board at ransom by contesting the authenticity of layout and general plans.

Mabwe claimed that the current layout plan did not match a map created in 2001, when squatters received occupiers’ cards. “A lot of elderly widows and orphans were left out of the 2022 layout plan, which was not even approved by the Surveyor-General,” Mabwe said. He emphasized the need for proper procedures to ensure that the right people benefit from the regularization process.

Epworth Town Secretary Wilton Mhanda declined to comment on the matter. National Housing and Social Amenities Secretary Theodius Chinyanga requested written questions but did not respond immediately.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba was unavailable for comment due to his attendance at the African Development Bank Group 2024 Annual Meetings in Nairobi, Kenya.

Epworth North legislator Zivai Mhetu clarified that residents had received deeds of grant, not title deeds. “There is a difference between a deed of grant and a title deed. Development, such as the installation of roads, must take place first,” Mhetu said, adding that he would lobby Parliament for the necessary infrastructure development in Epworth.

A deed of grant is issued where there is no title deed, providing the State’s conditional rights to the beneficiary. These conditions can include specific land use stipulations and other related matters.

Residents continue to demand clarity and fulfillment of Mnangagwa’s promises, highlighting the need for transparency and proper implementation of the regularization process.